I Tried Learning Italian in Italy For 30 Days4 min read

Published by Zach on

1. First Steps

I studied intensely when I first started. I listened to 3-4 hours of Soundcloud language exchange instructional audio daily while smashing through ~500 Anki flashcards.

Something else I did was I remembered what words I would use all the time in Spanish, like maybe, thank you, can I have, I want, where is it, how much is it, a lot, a little, and so on, and translated a bunch of words in my notebook that way.

I then looked at the 20 most common verbs, including the irregular ones, and committed the conjugations in the present to memory. So for the first three days, my materials looked like this:

  • Soundcloud Language Transfer
  • Anki
  • EdX Course (Wellesley Italian 1)
  • YouTube Videos (Learn Italian with Lucrezia)
  • iTalki

Then, on the third day, I decided it was time to try to talk to someone who spoke Italian, which was tough.

Oh yeah, did I mention I was going to Italy? And that I would be there for the next month?

2. Living in an Italian Speaking Place

My Italian was about to get a jump-start because I was flying to Bologna.

The best way for me to learn Italian quickly was to be in an Italian-speaking place. I began eating at restaurants, going to coffee shops, buying gelato (of course), and speaking entirely in Italian. However, it could have gone better. I could say, “Can I have X,” but then they would ask some clarifying questions like, “Inside or outside?” or “To eat here or to take out?” and I was lost. And I had no second chance! They switched to English immediately, and my time was up. They would also use the conditional tense like, “Would you like,” or “Could you X,” and I had no chance.

Monday, however, on day number 4 of my Italian learning, I began my Italian classes!

3. Formal Classes and Full Integration

Finding the correct level of formal classes was vital. Because I had studied so hard in the previous days, the first week of classes was too easy for me. I knew the present tense and the simple past, and I was taking notes on my own during most of the course, preparing for my online private lessons later in the day where the real growth would happen.

Luckily, the next week, I jumped onto the next class, pre-intermediate, and began to advance quickly in Italian. These classes were from 9-2, Monday through Friday.

I had learned up to 6 tenses: Passat prossimo, presente indicative, pasato imperfecto, pasato progressivo, trapassato prossimo, and futuro. Getting all those conjugations right in my head was challenging, but I could do it by around week 3.

I made an Italian friend of two in Bologna, and, for some reason, during the day when we would meet up, they would speak nicely in English to me, even though I wanted to talk in Italian to them. But, when we went out with all our friends at night, everyone spoke Italian, and I had to adapt! That was one of the best things for me because I started to speak awful Italian, but I was saying it and having conversations entirely in Italian! What I learned, when you want your Italian friends to speak Italian to you, introduce a couple of Aperols or Gin and Lemons…

4. Final Thoughts

At the end of my Italian journey, I was sad it was over but amazed by my progress. Using my previous language learning was invaluable, and I see now how many of these fancy people on the internet, like Xioma, can speak many languages fluently. Once you learn how you learn, you can use those strategies to quickly pick up and understand other skills. Now, I was far from fluent, but I could hold a conversation for a few minutes without getting lost, imagine what I could do in two months. Or a year?

Finally, Italy is a fantastic place. The food is terrific; the culture is quite different but in an excellent way. I saw places and was introduced to things I would have only noticed if I had learned La Bella Lingua. The most fantastic thing about many of the areas of Italy I visited is there was no such thing as a rush, and, oh yeah, did I mention the food?

Grazie Mille Italia, Arrivederci

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